New Demerara River Bridge construction High Court to determine compensation packages for Peters Hall residents

In light of the ongoing impasse between the government and the residents of Peters Hall on the East Bank of Demerara, over the acquisition of their lands for the construction of the new bridge across the Demerara River, steps will now be taken to have the court determine the adequate compensation to have the 15 property owners relocate.

Works ongoing on the new bridge across the Demerara River

“The Law provides that a judge will determine what the price the government needs to pay to ensure that the person [resident] is not violated, robbed, or cheated. So, we will approach the judge by way of an application to the court and the judge will determine the outcome,” Public Works Minister Juan Edghill told reporters on Thursday.
The government is looking to acquire 21 properties in the area in question but so far, only six residents have accepted the compensation packages while the remaining 15 property owners have refused the offer, citing their dissatisfaction.
The compensation packages include a free plot of the residential lot (or commercial and industrial where applicable) or a house with lot; monetary compensation to the market value of the resident land/ building; monetary compensation for crops, and accommodation affording the resident time to rebuild.
However, with no progress made during the several engagements held between government officials and the property owners over the past two years, Notices of Eviction were issued on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, to those 15 residents, informing them that they have to relocate within a month.
The notice, sent by Minister Edghill, explained that while engagements with the residents were unable to yield an ‘amicable consensual financial package’, the government is pressed for time given that the project is ongoing. Hence, the decision to proceed with the compulsory acquisition of the properties in accordance with Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act, Cap. 62:05.
According to the Public Works Minister, the government has undertaken the necessary steps to reach this stage of Compulsory Acquisition of the lands, which are now the property of the State.
The affected residents are contending that they are willing to relocate but want a “fair” compensation package. One resident, Fannet Belgrave, called for equal treatment of everyone, noting that some persons who have already agreed to move were given higher compensation than what is being offered to the remaining persons.
But this claim was dismissed by Minister Edghill on Thursday, revealing that there were three valuations done.
“The government did a valuation of all properties and we gave that to everybody… they disagreed and said this is too low. They went out and got private valuations. One of the valuators who did that is my Opposition colleague and predecessor at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Mr [David] Patterson. After that was done, and that came in huge and very high, we went out and got a private valuator… who works all the banks and the banks rely on his expertise to be able to deal with properties and mortgages and all the rest of it. So, we have three valuations,” he noted.
The Public Works Minister related it was that same independent valuation that was used to determine compensation packages for the six residents who have agreed to move as well as the offer that was made to the 15 residents.
“The only issue is the amount of money, you know. There is no other issue… People want the government to acquire their property. The issue is what is fair payment… So, a judge will now sit down and look at all the facts… and we have to obey the courts,” Edghill stated.
The court proceedings are yet to be filed but the Minister told the Guyana Times that the Attorney General Chambers and its lawyers are working on getting these documents ready.
Meanwhile, Minister Edghill used to opportunity to lash back at those critics who have been accusing the government of bullying the residents. He contended that at no point did any government officials including himself have a confrontation with the residents.
Nevertheless, the Public Works Minister further outlined the importance of this bridge project, adding that it will be a major transformation for Guyana’s infrastructural landscape.
“The successful completion of the new Demerara River Bridge, which as you can see is moving apace, is a major game-changer for Guyana… There are some people who will go with a big smile on their face in the name of being a nationalist and a patriot [but] will use all kinds of maneuverings and scheme-mongering to block it for political advantage. And this is what is disgusting. Every Guyanese who understands the suffering of the masses at that current Demerara [Harbour] Bridge every day will understand that that kind of infantile politics and immature progging and probing and agitating should not be encouraged and allowed.
Works on the bridge, which will stretch from Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara (EBD) to La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD), started in May 2023 and is expected to last for two years.
The hybrid-designed bridge will feature a modern four-lane structure, cycle lane, with a 2.65 kilometers length, and driving surface of about 23.6 meters and will have a lifespan of some 100 years. It will replace the current floating structure that has outlived its 10-year lifespan but serve as a critical link to connect several regions with the Capital City.
This move by the government is compulsory in acquiring the residential properties, as the December 2024 deadline inches closer for the completion of the infrastructure. Currently, some 43 per cent of the works have been completed. (G-8)